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Noise Complaints Drown Out Discussion of Forthcoming Cherrydale Farmers Market

A new farmers market in Cherrydale will open in a few weeks following a vote by the County Board last night (Tuesday).

Ahead of the vote, some residents — chiefly worried about noise early in the morning — told Board members the market will be a rotten deal for their neighborhood. The issue drew 14 speakers for and against the proposal and the discussion lasted one hour, prompting some Board members to hasten to a vote and move on.

The new market will attract up to 20 vendors to its location at Dorothy Hamm Middle School (4100 Vacation Lane). Its first day is expected to be Saturday, July 3; starting next year, the market will operate from April through November. Field to Table, an Arlington-based nonprofit that facilitates the markets at Lubber Run, Fairlington and Westover, will manage the market.

Sales will start at 8 a.m. and end at noon. The School Board is set to approve an agreement during its Thursday, June 24 meeting.

Concerned residents asked for a 9 a.m. start time to allow for more quiet time in the morning. While the County Board ultimately sided with an 8 a.m. start time, proposed by staff and requested by Field to Table, they did extend an olive branch to residents in the form of a County Board review of the market in six months.

“Having lived through this with my Fairlington community, there was a lot of concerns about noise, and I would hear about it on walks,” Board member Libby Garvey said. “I have not been hearing about complaints since, and I’m fairly confident that this will work out fine.”

Local resident Joan Perry predicted that with this level of concern over the impact on the neighborhood, the market will not succeed, just like a community-supported agriculture program in the neighborhood failed.

“The farmers market is supposed to serve the immediate community surrounding the school, the very people opposed to the market who did not support the CSA,” she said.

Neighbor Simone Acha asked for a later start time so her Saturday mornings would not be unduly disturbed.

“We know from having lived through almost four years of construction at Dorothy Hamm Middle School that noise is very disruptive,” she said.

Others were excited at the prospect of a walkable market.

“I can’t think of a better place to hold the farmers market,” said Marcy Gessel.

Neighboring civic associations advocated for starting at 9 a.m. and ending at 1 p.m. The Donaldson Run Civic Association conditioned its support on — among other requests — this start time.

“A farmers market located in this kind of neighborhood setting, such substantial disruption of nearby DRCA residents on a weekend morning is unreasonable,” wrote Bill Richardson, the president of the Donaldson Run Civic Association. “For those living near Hamm Middle School, who have already had to endure many years of construction activity, this burden is particularly distressing.”

In response to the concerns, ahead of the Tuesday Board meeting, staff added language governing noise levels, limiting vendor parking to one road, and suggested both a staff and County Board review.

Attempting to wrap up the discussion and propose a resolution that would work for everyone, Board member Katie Cristol nodded to some mothers and children in the audience of the County Board meeting. They were waiting to speak about a later agenda item: county attempts to improve conditions at the Serrano Apartments, an affordable housing complex in Columbia Pike.

“I’m cognizant that we have some really important items, as I know our chair feels acutely — and it’s bedtime in some cases — so I think we should try to be moving forward,” Cristol said.

By the time the Serrano discussion started, however, those families had to leave, according to Rev. Pete Nunnally, the assistant rector at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church.

“I wonder what the conversation was between the mothers who brought their kids here but had to wait so long, so long that they had to go home, while white people argued about a farmers market,” he said.

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